Loneliness is more widespread today than ever before. In our modern world, we are staying virtually connected all the time but feel more detached from each other in real life. Many people find themselves socially and emotionally lonely, but few know what spiritual loneliness is.
Recent events have further heightened the feelings of loneliness. Social distancing measures require us to stay at home and avoid unnecessary contact with other people. With this mandatory isolation, it makes sense why you might be feeling lonely right now, especially if you are an outgoing person.
But did you know that loneliness has many facets? And today, we will talk about the most profound and painful one – the spiritual loneliness.
4 Types of Loneliness
I believe there are four basic types of loneliness:
- Social loneliness: the most common type. You could be feeling socially lonely right now when you are stuck in your home and can’t see your friends or family. You can also experience it when you lack social connections or activities.
- Emotional loneliness: doesn’t necessarily involve being alone or lacking connections. You could have friends and family but feel emotionally disconnected from them. It comes from a lack of understanding and the inability to relate to those around you.
- Intellectual loneliness: the inability to discuss things that feel important and interesting to you with other people. Similarly to emotional loneliness, it can come from a lack of understanding – but in an intellectual sense of it. A lack of intellectually compatible or like-minded individuals to share your interests and views with.
- Spiritual loneliness: doesn’t come from a lack of social or emotional connections. An overall feeling of detachment from everyone and belonging nowhere. Feeling that your life is incomplete and lacks meaning. A vague sense of longing, but you can’t say what or who you long for.
How Does Spiritual Loneliness Feel?
While the other types of loneliness tend to be temporary and occur only in certain periods of your life, spiritual one is not. This feeling haunts you for a lifetime. You may not experience it every day, but you know it is always there and sooner or later, it will show up again.
Here are a few symptoms of spiritual loneliness:
Life is passing you by
It may seem like life is passing you by and everyone else participates in something you are a stranger to. You may feel disconnected from reality and clueless about life while everyone else seems to know what they are doing.
No matter what you do, where you are or who you are with, it feels not enough. As if you long for some unknown place, person or thing. Like there is something bigger, deeper and more meaningful and your life lacks it.
Longing for unknown somewhere and belonging nowhere
There is a beautiful Welsh word “Hiraeth”, which stands for a longing for home. However, it describes a very specific type of homesickness – for something that no longer exists or may have never existed. Hiraeth could be a longing for the homeland of your ancestors you have never been to.
I believe this word perfectly describes the feeling of spiritual loneliness. It’s like you don’t belong in this world and your place is somewhere else, far from here, but you don’t know where this is.
You may have felt this way when gazing into the starry sky on a dark summer night. It’s as if some far-away unknown homeland is calling you through the depths of the universe. However, with spiritual loneliness, you feel this way on a regular basis, not only when you look at the sky.
Detachment from everyone
Spiritual loneliness gets even more intense when you are surrounded by other people. You feel that you just can’t relate to them no matter what you do.
Have you ever been in the company of people you barely know who were discussing something you didn’t have a clue about? For example, their common acquaintance or a hobby they share. So you just sat there feeling a total stranger, unable to take part in the conversation. In situations like this, anyone would feel lonely.
But as a spiritually lonely person, this is your normal emotional state when you are with other people, especially at a large social gathering. It’s like there is an invisible wall that separates you from others.
In this example with the group discussion, the energies of people who participate in the conversation sort of unite into one big sphere. And you remain outside of this sphere. Everyone is connected with each other – but you. You always play the role of an outside observer.
This is what spiritual loneliness feels like.
The Spiritual Loneliness of Deep Thinkers
I believe this type of loneliness affects deep thinkers in the first place. All those people who are prone to reflection, self-analysis and overthinking. Visionaries, romantics and dreamers. It’s not a coincidence that many writers refer to spiritual loneliness in their literary works, even though they don’t use this specific word for it.
For example, Russian existentialist author Fyodor Dostoevsky writes in his famous novel “Idiot”:
What had so tormented him was the idea that he was a stranger to all this, that he was outside this glorious festival. What was this universe? What was this grand, eternal pageant to which he had yearned from his childhood up, and in which he could never take part? […]
Everything knew its path and loved it, went forth with a song and returned with a song; only he knew nothing, understood nothing, neither men nor words nor any of nature’s voices; he was a stranger and an outcast.
Albert Einstein, a genius physicist who was also an INTP and a deep thinker, probably suffered from spiritual loneliness too. He said:
Is It Possible to Overcome Spiritual Loneliness?
If you are a spiritually lonely person, there is no ‘magic’ way to stop being one once and for all. There are only ways to silence this pain of not belonging. The problem with spiritual loneliness is that you can’t find what exactly is missing from your life and what you long for.
You know those times when you try to remember an exciting dream you just had, but no matter how hard you try, it just slips away from your mind. This is how it goes with spiritual loneliness. No matter how hard you try to find its source, you can’t. It’s just the way it is.
For example, a way to end social loneliness is to go out more often and make new connections. Emotional loneliness is more tricky, but it is still possible to find people you can relate to and who will understand you. With mental loneliness, all it takes is to find a like-minded person to have deep conversations with. Not easy, but achievable.
But as for spiritual loneliness, you can’t solve a problem without knowing its cause. And the existential depth of this loneliness makes it difficult to deal with.
In my experience, the only way to cope with it is to accept it.
Accept the fact that spiritual loneliness will be your lifetime companion. Make friends with it. When it shows up, don’t try to get rid of it. This will only lead to resentment and bottled emotions. Instead, let yourself feel it in all its depth.
At some point, you will get used to it. You will see how pain and darkness turn into bittersweet nostalgia and melancholic thoughtfulness.
And most importantly, if you relate to the above, remember that no matter how spiritually lonely you are, you are not alone.
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